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Our Findings | Republican attempts to brand Democrats as “radicals” worked

While practically everyone – candidates, journalists, Party leaders, and pundits – has focused on the impact of Defund the Police as a solo variable, it was just one of the multiple issues that Republicans used to paint Democrats as radicals

• At one end of the spectrum, candidates like Rep. Spanberger

(VA-07) shared widely reported concerns that Republican efforts to paint all Democrats as socialists who would defund the police

cost us multiple seats this cycle • Similarly, Cameron Webb’s campaign (VA-05) constantly had to

bat back claims that he supported defunding the police, even after running ads that featured local law enforcement as validators, and after the paper of record, the Roanoke Times, debunked the claim. It was particularly difficult for candidates of

color to avoid these race-based attacks

• This “Dem potpourri” included efforts to tie candidates to

socialism, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, Nancy Pelosi, AOC and “the Squad” (in these cases all framed as equally radical). These attacks were used to a greater or lesser degree

depending on the unique constituencies of a given district • There was no one best way to counter these attacks, nor was

there clear agreement even that we should address the issue in

paid communications • The GOP consistently framed the moment in “law and order”

terms, which resonated with voters on both the right and the left – including Latino men and women, as the April 2021 EquisLabs report “Portrait of a Persuadable Latino” called out

• In other districts, Defund the Police was perceived as a minor blip

among the other “Dem potpourri” attacks. For example, in FL-26, attacks against former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell focused more on messages of socialism and support for women’s choice – issues that were more effective with her Hispanic and Latino

constituents

• And in some races, such as the North Carolina Senate race,

Defund the Police “was in the bloodstream because it was part of the presidential back and forth,” but it was never really a huge part of the Senate campaign messaging on either side

How much Defund the Police dominated public discourse – and by extension how much it required campaign resources to address the issue – varied widely by state and district

Based on interviews, data analysis, polling, and ads analysis, where Defund the Police had a significant impact, it was as a part of culturebased attack on Democrats that sought to stoke fears among voters about any candidate with a ‘D’ after their name

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